Ballet's welcome dose of magic

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 August, 1996, 12:00am

It is a strange paradox, but with Peter Pan, the Hong Kong Ballet is beginning to grow up at last. This production showed them at their most professional and convincing for a long time.

Graham Lustig has choreographed a charming adaptation of J M Barrie's children's classic, which, with Nadine Baylis' clever set and costume design, gives a real sense of the magic of the original.

Michael Wang was a suitably sprightly Peter: mischievous, mercurial, and rather dangerous.

Eriko Ochiai as Tinkerbell was delightfully sulky, jealous and human. If that's a fairy then I certainly believe in them.

The fairies were funny, but it was the wonderful, wriggling, back-flipping croc played in different scenes by Wendy Panganiban and Kwok Wingyan that stole the show.

The flying ('by Foy', read the programme credits) was clever: a combination of harnesses, wires and ropes ensured that up to five dancers could perform an aerial ballet at the same time and without appearing to be part of a logistical nightmare. It was easy to suspend disbelief for a while and forget the harnesses.

Some of the fencing was unconvincing: even if the fight choreography has to be stylised there should be more tension to the first encounter between the evil Captain Hook and his young enemy.

Edward McGuire's music (played here by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, conducted by Richard Honner) is lyrical, complex: celtic folk meets contemporary classical.

Is it ballet? That I don't know: Peter Pan is a strange betweenish piece, neither modern nor classical.

Ballet purists might shudder, but with a crocodile that wriggles and flips like that, three long acts that manage to keep even the tiniest of children glued to their seats in excitement, and a sense of magic and energy, this should be a programme the company keeps in its repertoire for a long time.

It is worlds better than the old warhorse The Nutcracker.

Hong Kong Ballet: Peter Pan. Sha Tin Town Hall auditorium. August 10.